DEP ENHANCES PUBLIC OUTREACH FOR CONTAMINATED SITE CLEANUPS
(08/44) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection is implementing a law requiring enhanced public-outreach by those responsible for cleanups of contaminated sites to post signs or distribute notification letters informing local residents of work progress, Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.
“This public outreach significantly improves how neighbors are kept informed about cleanups and will become an invaluable tool for everyone involved in those cleanups by eliminating misperceptions and speculation that can create conflict and unnecessary delays,” Commissioner Jackson said.
The parties responsible for cleanups must take these actions no later than two weeks prior to the initiation of certain phases of investigation or remediation of a site. For sites already undergoing cleanup, notification must take place within a year of the effective date of the rules.
“While the DEP posts an on-line contaminated site list and makes every effort to make site information available to anyone who requests it, the public may not know how to access it nor have the time to seek it out,” Commissioner Jackson said. “This initiative brings important information about site cleanups right to their communities and into their homes.”
Signs must be placed in locations that are clearly visible to the public and must be at least two-feet-by-three-feet in size. They must include the following wording: “Environmental Investigation/Cleanup in Progress at this Site.”
The signs must further provide a contact person and telephone number for the entity or person conducting the remediation as well as the phone number for the DEP’s Office of Community Relations.
If the letter option is chosen, it must include the name and address of the site, lot and block information, a common-language description of the contamination, and a statement that the party doing the remediation will provide copies of all environmental reports to the municipality upon the municipality’s request.
When appropriate, additional letters or signs are to be provided in the language dominant in the community, such as Spanish.
The rules were authorized by amendments to the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act and take effect with their publication in the New Jersey Register this week.
They require the party responsible for the cleanup to identify sensitive populations and resources located within 200 feet of the site boundary. Sensitive populations and resources include residences, schools, child care centers, public parks, playgrounds, surface waters, drinking-water wells and priority well-head protection areas. The checklists will assist the department and local officials in evaluating site risks.
If contamination spreads off a site, the party responsible for the cleanup must distribute a fact sheet to the community and publish it in a local newspaper. The DEP will require additional, community-specific public outreach when residents or local officials demonstrate significant public interest through a petition to the department or the department receives a written request from a local official.
Exempt from the notice requirements are remediation projects for leaking heating-oil tanks involving one to four residential units. Emergency response actions are also exempt.
In 2005, a DEP task force launched a series of discussions among groups that included environmental justice advocates, environmental and civic organizations, local health officers and officials, and business and industry leaders. The task force concluded that early dialogue and proactive communications are essential to achieve swift and successful site cleanups. The DEP formally proposed the public notification rule in August 2007.
For a copy of the rule and information on the initiative, go to http://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/